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Draft Scots same-sex marriage bill published

12 December 2012

The draft bill to allow same-sex marriage in Scotland has been published today, as part of a new consultation on the detail of ministers' proposals to be put to the Scottish Parliament.

The consultation covers the detail of the 27-section Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill, which includes a statement "for the avoidance of doubt" that nothing in the bill affects freedom of conscience or religion, or freedom of expression, under the European Comvention on Human Rights.

Couples in a civil partnership registered in Scotland will be able to change their civil partnership to a marriage.

In addition to permitting same-sex marriage, the bill introduces "belief ceremonies" as a formal category of marriage ceremony alongside religious and civil ceremonies, for both opposite-sex and same-sex marriage. At the moment, belief celebrants, such as humanists, have to be given temporary authorisation to solemnise marriage in Scotland.

Celebrants of religious or belief bodies will be able to solemnise same-sex marriages if the body requests this and ministers are satisfied that the body meets the “qualifying requirements”, to be set out in regulations. Ministers can then prescribe the body as authorised to do so.

It will also be possible to have a religious or belief ceremony to register a civil partnership.

Notes published with the bill explain that it does not, at this stage, include provisions to allow a transgender person to stay married and obtain a full gender recognition certificate, but that these provisions will be added later.

The bill makes a number of other technical amendments to marriage law, including by abolishing the concept of marriage by cohabitation with habit and repute where a couple erroneously believed themselves to be married overseas but it transpired after one of them died that the marriage was not valid.

Health Secretary Alex Neil said: "We are introducing same sex marriage in Scotland because it is the right thing to do. We are striving to create a Scotland that is free, tolerant and fair and I am pleased to say there is support across the chamber for this significant step.

“I am absolutely clear that this should not impact on religious freedom and no religious body will be compelled to solemnise same sex marriages. Religious bodies who wish to solemnise same sex marriage will have to opt in. Where a body does decide to solemnise same sex marriages, we will also protect individual celebrants who consider such ceremonies to be contrary to their faith.”

Click here to view the consultation. The closing date for responses is Wednesday, 20 March 2013.

Yesterday the UK Government published its proposals which will be the basis of legislation predicted to come into force by 2015. (Click here for report.)

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